UPDATE: November 3 marks one full year since Kenneth Bae has been incarcerated in North Korea.
This post will likely only make sense for people of faith and for followers of Christ. For others, it might just come across as ludicrous…because seriously, who would go to the ends of the earth? Who would risk their safety to pursue their convictions in Christ?
[Please also read this post explaining why Kenneth's mother recently went to North Korea to visit her son.]
I’m writing to you about a man named Kenneth Bae. He is a son, a father, a husband, a brother…and also a follower of Christ. I do not know him but I consider him a brother-in-Christ.
Much like us…and unlike us.
Kenneth is very much like us and in another way, he is completely unlike us. He is like us in that we all seek to honor Christ with our lives. We seek to pursue our calling and convictions. We seek to live out our faith – whether that be in and through our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and in our larger cities. But sometimes, God’s calling and convictions lead people to faraway places. We know this to be true because God calls us in Scriptures to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. [Acts 1:8]
And in this way, he’s very unlike us…because his calling and convictions have led him to a very distant, mysterious, and isolated place called North Korea.
Many of us understand the callings to Jerusalem and Judea but …Samaria? The ends of the earth?
Kenneth developed a deep passion and heart for North Korea. And as it has already been documented through various news sources, Kenneth was a “tentmaker” – working as a tour guide but with a missionary heart to share the love of Christ. He did much of this in China and in North Korea. He did this with prayer and support. He did this with the support of a mission organization. But on his last trip hosting a tourist group to North Korea in November 2012 – a trip that he’s led at least 15 times with no problems whatsoever – Kenneth was detained on November 3.
Was he a spy? Was he openly preaching on the major street corners of Pyongyang? Was he being reckless?
No. No. No.
While we can speculate about the political nature or agenda that North Korea may have to use him as a “pawn,” Kenneth was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor because he was charged for committing “hostile acts to bring down the government” and “planning anti-North Korea religious activities.”
He was charged – in essence – for being a Christian. He was charged for taking his faith in Christ to heart. He was found guilty of wanting to share God’s love with those in North Korea. He was charged for being faithful to the convictions that God had placed upon his heart.
He was charged – officially – for wanting to bring down the government because like other missionaries or tentmakers, he spoke and preached at some of his sponsoring churches in the United States and prayed for a future day when the walls of North Korea would come down so that the Gospel may flourish. He said these things and they were recorded on videos and published onto respective church websites…and they were likely used by North Korea and their case against him.
And while one can argue if the US government is doing enough to pursue his freedom or if they are even obligated to do anything at all…one thing is clear to me:
The Church cannot forget our own.
The Church cannot forget Kenneth Bae. We cannot forget the Kenneths, the Yousef Nadarkhani’s, the Pastor Saeed Abedini’s, and the thousands of other Christians around the world that are persecuted for their faith in Christ. They are our brother and sisters. While governments, media, and the citizens of their countries may forget them and even mock and criticize them…the Church must not forget.
We must fight for them.
We must advocate for them.
We must pray for them.
We must work and pray boldly for their release.
And so I ask you to join me in praying for those that you may know that are serving to pursue their calling and convictions in Christ around the world – especially in countries and regions that are not hospitable to Jesus followers. I ask you to remember Kenneth Bae in your prayers:
Kenneth – a US citizen – is currently detained in North Korea – for his faith in Christ. He has been detained since November and thus, for over 9 months – the longest period any American citizen has ever been detained in North Korea. Pray for Kenneth and for his wife, children, parents, and friends. His health has deteriorated during his lengthy imprisonment due to chronic medical conditions including diabetes, enlarged heart and severe back pain. He is also experiencing vision loss due to complications of diabetes.
While I’ve never met Kenneth, I do have a very deep personal connection to this story. Kenneth’s sister, Terri, and her family attend my church. I have met his parents on numerous occasions. I have prayed with them. I have cried with them. I have sought to give them counsel during these turbulent times. Words cannot describe what they have endured through this ordeal. But rather than me just sharing, I’d like for you to…
Read Terri’s op-ed in the Seattle Times:
I WILL never forget the sound of anguish my mother made as we watched the recently released video footage of the American citizen — my brother, Kenneth Bae — in a North Korean labor camp. Our family had been devastated by my brother’s 15-year sentence of hard labor, but nothing could have prepared us for this.
My mother drew in a sharp breath and broke into heaving sobs, gasping for breath, at the sight of her son so diminished. We could see the heavy toll his long imprisonment, since November, had taken. Kenneth talked about his deteriorating health due to diabetes, enlarged heart and back pain, and pleaded with the U.S. government to help him.
It wasn’t just that he had lost so much weight and that his health was suffering, but that he seemed so broken. He choked up as he said, “I am my father’s only son,” pained that he could not be here to celebrate our father’s 70th birthday with my parents, who live in Lynnwood…
My brother is an optimist by nature, a hardworking husband and father, and a man of faith. Several years ago, he saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion by contributing to the North Korean economy in the form of tourism. He started his own tour company in China.
Introducing the untainted beauty of the land and the people of North Korea to the outside world was his livelihood and passion. In the past two years, he led more than 15 tours into the special economic zone of Rason, and that is what he was doing when he was arrested. [read full article]
What can you do?
I know that this seems so “small” but don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Please pray for Kenneth and his faith, his health, and for his family – including his wife, children, parents, sister, and friends. Pray for the leader of the respective countries and for the possibility of dialogue, deeper understanding, and even the possibility of peace. Pray for the government and people of North Korea. They are more than the axis of evil. They are people that are loved by God.
Perhaps your family, or small group, or church can take a few minutes in an upcoming gathering or Sunday service to pray for Kenneth Bae, his situation, and his freedom
Quest is hosting a prayer vigil for Kenneth Bae – with his sister and parents – this Saturday, August 10, at 7pm. If you are in the Seattle area, please join us.
2. SIGN this Petition.
Jonathan (Kenneth’s son), started a petition asking for people in the United States and around the world to show their support and ask the government to work harder for his freedom. Sign this petition and use your network to share it with others.
3. SPREAD THE WORD.
Please don’t let the Church forget the Kenneth Bae’s in the world. Don’t forget the Yousefs and Saeeds. Share this post. Activate your social networks.
4. LEAVE A COMMENT WITH A PRAYER OR ENCOURAGEMENT TO KENNETH’S FAMILY – for his children, wife, sister, and parents. Let them know that they are not alone.
photo: Kenneth several months after he began his sentence in labor camp.
UPDATE [9/11] // Kenneth’s mother, Myunghee Bae, visits North Korea to visit her son. It’s irrational and crazy but sometimes, the love of a parent even sends us to North Korea.
UPDATE [8/30] // Statement by Kenneth Bae’s family in response to the breaking news today that North Korea has rescinded its invitation to a US envoy that was seeking Kenneth’s release.
Our family is disappointed by the news that the special envoy is unable to go to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to bring Kenneth home at this time. We hold on to faith that DPRK and US diplomats will resume talks soon, ultimately leading to my brother being released.
It has been 301 days since Kenneth has been detained. With every day, we continue to pray. We appreciate the work that the State Department and the Obama administration have been doing and have pledged to do for Kenneth’s release. We miss Kenneth and remain concerned about his health.
We are not giving up hope for a peaceful and timely resolution.
Sister of Kenneth Bae
We continue to pray for Kenneth. We pray for his health and release. We pray for his wife, children, parents, sister, and larger family. We continue to pray for the people of North Korea.
UPDATE [8/29] // Received this memo from Kenneth’s sister, Terri, just earlier today:
“Today marks 300 days since my brother Kenneth has been detained in North Korea. We are encouraged by the news of the US envoy traveling to NK to seek Kenneth’s release but also nervous about the uncertainty and sensitivity of the situation. We are holding our breaths and hoping and praying for his homecoming. Will you please pray with us?”
UPDATE [8/10] // We hosted a prayer vigil for Kenneth with his sister, mother, father, and extended family at Quest Church. Kenneth’s family was deeply encouraged by the amazing turnout of friends and strangers alike who came to pray for Kenneth.
Terri [pictured above] shared the most updated news they received yesterday from the Swedish ambassador as they have a formal relationship with North Korea. They shared that because of Kenneth’s ailing health, he was transferred to a hospital. In addition to losing over 50 pounds, Kenneth had been suffering from issues of diabetes, heart problems, etc. Please continue to lift him in prayer. [photo credit: Thanh Tan, Seattle Times]